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FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Adams Lost After One Term,

But Eventually Got Over It

(After retiring, one-term President John) Adams led a quiet life, tending to his farm, while Jefferson’s presidency came and went. Twelve years after he left Washington, Adams finally snapped out of his funk and sent a letter to his old rival…

Jefferson wrote back immediately, remembering the long years in which “we were fellow laborers in the same cause.” For the next 14 years, a fountain of prose gushed from these two master stylists, divided in politics but reunited in friendship.

Much of it was personal – proud parents discussing their children and grandchildren, lamenting losses, complaining of small ailments as they aged. In his last letter, Jefferson used the Greek word “Argonaut” to describe their long journey together, and their correspondence retained a grandeur befitting two patriarchs who had weathered so much on behalf of the same cause.

Adams and Jefferson died, with startling fidelity to the cause and to each other, on the same day: July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration on which they had labored together…

Even before their unforgettable joint exit, the two former rivals had done a great deal to deepen democracy. We often think of their earlier contributions – the first stirrings of independence and the presidencies that helped a young country to find its footing.

Yet the friendship that Adams and Jefferson formed in their old age was just as meaningful and showed the world that Americans could lose gracefully and find comfort in their commitment to shared principles.

Prof. TED WIDMER
Wall Street Journal
Saturday-Sunday, Dec. 5 – 6

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